David Weinrich
David Weinrich

Hats in the Air

The last Thursday in June has, for as long as I can remember, been one of the most important days of the Israeli year. Not the longest, that’s the 21st, the summer solstice, you know, druids, hippies, all that bad stuff, but the day on which the Israel Air Force (some say, as indeed does the IAF that it should be Israeli Air Force. Protocol suggests that I should follow their lead, but for various reasons, age, bl**dy-mindedness, I know I’m right etc, I’ll stick with this) celebrates the graduation of the latest crop of pilots who will go on to serve and protect the State of Israel from enemies near and far.

However, for other reasons, it is also usually the longest day in that it marks the end of the school year, when all the kids – don’t they look younger every year – go out to celebrate with Alice Cooper (1972 pop song by one Vince Furnier – can I put the old Geoff Boycott story in here?) [No you can’t, Ed] until the early, or late hours, so much so that for many years it has also been “White Night” in the white city, with pubs and restaurants open all night. The fact that the last Thursday in June 2021 was as early as it can be, the 24th, meant for some reason it was hijacked by interplanetarynet friends of Gal Gadot for whatever it is that her friends get up to at such times, but that’s another story probably covered ad nauseum on various antisocial media sites.

Three “Yanshuf” helicopters tow flags to open the aerial proceedings (authors photo)

Pilot Course 182 (so yes, sometimes three courses run concurrently) saw 39 candidates successfully win their wings, a number that in that past has been highly secretive to anyone without basic mental arithmetic skills, viz: 21% from Kibbutzim, 38% from Towns, 16% religious, 34% left handed, 90% sons of former fighter pilots.

Graduates from 2018 (Authors file photo). Don’t they look smart!

The poor dears having completed the hardest course in the military then have to stand center stage in 30+ degrees (um, high 80s to you lot, and fortunately none fainted this year) whilst politicians and military leaders tell the assembled kvellers, dignitaries and foreign military attaches a short history of the IAF universe, this year focusing on the 1981 Osiraq raid which paved the way for America to beat Iraq in a war without nuclear weapons, a war incidentally from which our American friends are still withdrawing, but that’s yet another story.

Of course the big difference this year was social distancing. The stands were rammed, as usual, but we the press had more space, oh and the Prime Minister had less hair. I could go on at length about the static aircraft and flying displays, this is meant to be a Defence Blog,

The IAF Aerobatic Team strut their stuff (authors photo)

They were on par and the cheering of the crowd was as enthusiastic as ever, with, of course, the loudest cheers for the four young ladies in the ranks. I must mention that President Rivlin spoke beautifully as always, but sartorially could do with stopping in London on his way back from the USofA and popping into Saville Row, Ruvi, can I call you Ruvi? Primark is not a gentleman’s store.

The President addresses the graduates at Hatzerim (authors photo)

The Air Force Ensemble gave it everything, the jets roared, the crowd cheered again, the Prime Minister pinned pins and “מחה”, commander of the IAF, soared. Colors were trooped by the next set of candidates whilst other future contenders gave a display of synchronized military two-steps resulting in, for the benefit of anyone watching from a UAV over the arena, shapes apparently representing an F-16 and some other aeronautical goodies. But of course, all that is secondary.

Trooping the IAF Colors (authors photo)

Waiting for the bus to take us to the ceremony, one of the gentlemen of the press asked another “Is this when they throw their hats in the air”? Now I know our military sometimes uses words with double meanings, words of mass disinformation if you will, but I have always thought “מסדר כנפיים” meant something like Wings Ceremony (or even “Order of Wings” – maybe even ”naming of wings” due to the IAFs RAF heritage) but now I know, it means “Hats in the Air” ceremony!

What everyone wants to fly when she, or he, grows up, the F-35A “Adir” performs for the crowds (Authors photo)

Alas reader I cannot show you the actual throwing of hats as too many young faces are visible, but basically our new pilots and aircrew run to the far edge of the arena and throw said garment into the air, the almighty keeps those belonging to anyone destined to become head of the Air Force, the rest fall to earth – don’t worry, the non-female-orientated religious individuals get to stick kippot underneath in the latest fashion. There is then a big scrum as they pretend to look for the right one (OK so maybe they have name tags).

When it was all over the PM noticed someone he knew (the person who voted for him?) in the press arena and came over for a chat.

Prime Minister Bennett greets his admirer (authors photo)

Nice man. I’ve not seen bodyguards so worried since that film with the late-lamented whatshername. The day was wearing thin by now, but as if by magic a fabulous full moon appeared over the horizon. A fitting end to the best, if not the longest day.

Full moon over Hatzerim (copywrite “The creator”, whomsoever she may be, attempted image by author)
About the Author
David Weinrich has dedicated his life to chasing military aircraft for fun, in Europe, the Americas, the Far East and for the past 27 years, at home in Israel. He photographs them, underlines them in his books (quill & parchment, please), escorts foreign "plane spotters" to the farthest corners of Israel and now writes a Blog about them for the Times of Israel.
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